Tapas, Tormas and Thosamling

The following article is from the Spring, 2003 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

images

BY JULIE ADLER

On December 27th, 2002, a crisp sunny day, sitting on tarps and making tormas, to a backdrop of snowcapped lower Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh, monks from Gyudmed Tantric College in Dharamsala were doing a puja to bless and purify the land that is now the foundation for a unique new nunnery. It also just happened to be Vajrayogini day.

Thosamling means 'Place of Hearing, Study and Reflection of the Buddha's teachings' and it is the name that was given to this nunnery/institute during a meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and coordinator Ani Tenzin Sangmo among others in the fall of 2000. The idea for a Western nunnery has been long in coming as many recognize the great need for a place where Western Buddhist nuns can reside, study and retreat and other Western women are welcome as well.

For so long, many Western Buddhist nuns have been wandering the world, struggling to survive without an actual base, a supportive, economically feasible spiritual environment in which to be with other ordained female Sangha. This is about to change.

Situated in Sidhpur, just behind Norbulinka, His Holiness' summer residence, and not far from McLeod Gary, Thosamling Institute is fast rising up out of the ground. In early January of this year, construction on the first building began. By June, committee of Lamas will be set up to guide and advise in the development of a non-sectarian study program. Nuns will be able to do long retreats at lower costs, and those residing in India can reach Thosamling without much difficulty. And for the growing number of Western women donning the robes, especially those who don't speak Tibetan, Thosamling will fill the void.

Starting this coming September 2003, the nunnery/institute will offer a 2-year comprehensive Tibetan language course open to all. After this immersion, a 5-year study course will begin. Additional offerings are to have leadership trainings and workshops as well as cross-educational exchanges with other Buddhist women's organizations, encouraging Tibetan, Indian and nuns from other traditions to come and teach and share experiences. To make a positive global impact by creating a strong women's community puts Thosamling on its feet and running.

Of course, to get all this up and running and carry on with plans for classrooms, a kitchen, a dining hall, a temple, a guesthouse,an office and up to ten retreat cabins, in the next several years, there is a great need for help in terms of financial support and plain old volunteering. At some point, Thosamling would like to become self- sufficient; so there are possibilities of having a milk and cheese -making factory as well as an organic farm to i be run by the residents and provide products for sale to the local communities. By Fall 2003, 2 retreat houses are expected to be ready for laywomen, and will be offered to of her life. But her experiences in lay-life helped prepare her to break ground on this project. Literally rolling up her robes and digging into the land, Sangmo is realizing a vision that will help support women in their daily studies and practices and provide a location for them to learn the Tibetan language, to become strong Tibetan Buddhists, excellent teachers and leaders. Being in India makes Thosamling easily accessible to Lamas from all 5 lineages who will be invited to teach for months at a time. An advisory those who have been supporters of the project since its inception. By summer 2005, Ani Sangmo hopes over 40 nuns and laywomen will be in residence.

images

 

In the meantime, nuns funds and study funds for teachers are being set up. And donations are tremendously appreciated. This is a historic moment for women in Buddhism. It should resonate with women all over the globe. And hopefully, Thosamling can serve as a model for future institutions who want to provide not just a place but a support system that is open-minded, innovative and deeply traditional at the same time.

images

...for the growing number of Western women donning the robes, especially those who don't speak Tibetan, Thosamling will fill the void.

If you would like to support this project, please write checks to Thosamling Institute and send c/o: Maria Hess 130 S. High St. Sebastopol, CA 95472.

Or you can donate on-line at:

http://www.thosamling.com

Back to all Snow Lion Articles